(Self-) Congratulation

January 24, 2012

My old friend Toby Roan just gave me the first award I ever won (unless you count those middle school spelling bees).  Toby tagged me as a recipient of the 7×7 Linked Award, which is one of those things that passes around among bloggers to give each other some much needed recognition.

Usually I’m pretty slack about responding to these things.  But the timing on this one was good, because lately I’ve been reflecting on the state of the archives here at the Classic TV History Blog.  I’ve been doing this long enough that the place is bursting at the seams, and I’m trying to figure out what, if anything, I should do about that.  Today it State of the Union day; maybe it’s also time for a State of the Blog address.

More importantly, this offered me a chance to give Toby Roan a shout-out, which I don’t think I’ve done before.  Toby paid for and published my first pieces of professional writing, back when I was in high school and he was editing a magazine about laserdiscs.  Now he has a really great blog about fifties westerns –  which I used to think I knew something about, but Toby’s work is a constant reminder that I’ve barely dipped my toes into that particular watering hole.

Anyway, this award thingee prevails upon me to do three things:

1. Tell everyone something no one else knows about.

I’m starting to think that binge-watching each season of The Office on DVD, as I’ve just done for the seventh time, may just be the high point of my year, every year.  Bonus factoid: I am in love with Mindy Kaling.  (Mindy darling, if you’re Googling yourself, I’m on Facebook!)

2. Link to one of my posts that I personally think best fits the following categories:

I’ve tried not to be too self-referential on this blog – no anniversaries or birthdays; onward! – but one thing I’ve noticed lately is that, after four years of accumulated verbiage, the archive you’ll find on the right is getting kind of cumbersome.  Even I sometimes have a tough time digging out an old piece when I need it.  I’m working on compiling a comprehensive index of the long pieces, which should make everything more accessible and point new readers to some content they may have missed.  This prompt is a nudge toward getting that done.  In the meantime, what the hell; I’ll indulge in a little back-patting.

Most Helpful Piece

I think my production history of East Side / West Side remains a pretty solid piece of scholarship.  Some of the key people I interviewed for it over fifteen years ago (ulp!) have since passed away, so for that reason alone it has some tangible value.  I wrote the first draft when I was a college sophomore, and it became the first substantial piece I published (originally, in a great magazine called Television Chronicles, which went to ’zine heaven before I could write anything else for it).  I revised it substantially when I reprinted it on this website in 2007, partly to upgrade some bad college writing but mainly to add a lot of new stuff I’d learned since.  And, in fact, I could correct and update it again just based on new info I’ve come across in the past four years.

The East Side / West Side piece established the methodology for all the work I’ve done since.  The behind-the-scenes story of this series is so juicy, and so vital to understanding the content on screen, that it validated my hunch that oral history and archival research were the best way for me to contribute to the body of knowledge on television and film history.

Most Popular Piece

The interviews I’ve done with popular character actors – especially Jason Wingreen, Harry Landers, and the late Collin Wilcox – seem to get the most hits and the most enthusiastic comments.  These are harder to prepare than they look, but I’m going to try to get a few more together for 2012.

Most Controversial Piece

My editorial damning CBS/Paramount for botching a DVD release of The Fugitive drew some heated comments – some echoing my outrage about the music replacement on those DVDs, and others because I took a swipe at a couple of other writers (if you can call them that) who chose to toe the corporate line in their own reportage of the incident.  I think what I wrote about those guys was right, but after running this post I decided I didn’t want to be one of those bloggers who made a habit of starting flame wars with other internet personae.  Since then I’ve mostly stuck to that resolution, even though – let me tell ya – some tempting targets have presented themselves.

Meanwhile, the initial controversy continues, with the unexplained recall of a Fugitive DVD re-release last fall that was supposed to restore most of the deleted music cues.  I’ve heard some interesting rumors about the reasons for that recall, and the likely outcome, but nothing that I can report on the record.  (Sorry.)

Most Surprisingly Successful Piece

Actually, this month’s consideration of the fifties Mike Hammer series generated a very passionate and detailed discussion in the comments.  But you just read that one.  So: “Dirt in the Bathtub” started out as a churlish gripe about a home video distributor that wouldn’t send me review copies of its DVDs.  I didn’t think much of it when I published it – in fact, I almost spiked it – but I reread it recently and was pleasantly surprised.  Without my noticing, it morphed into a pretty well-shaped essay that managed to weave together a few unrelated ideas in an unexpected way, almost as if a real writer had written it.

Most Underrated Piece

It seems to be axiomatic in the world of blogging (and maybe every kind of writing) that the ones you put your heart into pass without comment, while the throwaways attract more attention.  This profile of Laurence Heath, a Mission: Impossible writer/producer with a very dark past, took three years of off-and-on research and writing.  Relative to that, drew less of a response than I was expecting.  However, the silver lining there was that no one has challenged any of the facts in the piece (in fact, a distant relative wrote to me last year and confirmed many of the details I’d had to guess at) or the way I handled the more sensitive aspects of Heath’s story.  I try to get every story I report right, but I’m real glad I didn’t blow it with this one.

I also have a sense that two of my favorite features are a bit of a hard sell to regular readers.  But I’m going to keep doing the quick takes on contemporary character actors, because I think great acting is one of the pleasures of television that hasn’t changed since the first days of the medium; television today is a lot different than “classic” television, but this is a through-line that connects them.  And the oral history project with early television writers has been neglected lately, but I’m going to be coming back to it soon in a big way.

Most Pride-Worthy Piece

This mash note for the tragic Roberta Collins is probably the most writerly thing I’ve attempted.  It was confessional enough that I almost didn’t run it.  But I’m glad I did; I think it’s about as good as I can get.  Also, with the frame grabs I added in the post-script, I was (I think) the first on-line source to point out Roberta’s bit parts in two cult movies, Lord Love a Duck and Minnie and Moskowitz.  Most of what I write here is disposable, but any time I can dig up some fact that’s never been published before – well, that’s the work I take pride in.

Most Beautiful Piece

I can’t bring myself to apply that adjective to anything I’ve written.  I can apply it to this picture of Collin Wilcox.  I miss you, Collin, and I’m so glad we got to record some of your history together before you left us.

3. Pass this award on to seven other bloggers.

Er … Here’s where I’m gonna fall down on the job.  I’m not totally comfortable with the chain letter aspect of these awards, so I’m afraid this one is going to die out with me.  Yeah, I realize I’m kinda missing the point … but then, I do that all the time.

I’ve been really bad about networking with other bloggers – and there are a lot more good ones who’ve sprung up since I started.  A blogroll is another item that’s climbing up to the top of my to do list.  For now, though, let me throw this one out to readers: If I were going to pass this award on to other blogs, who should I choose?  What other TV-related blogs do you guys like?

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3 Responses to “(Self-) Congratulation”


  1. Congratulations! Count me among the readers who love the pieces on character actors. I write more about sitcoms, so I find genre-crossers like Jason Wingreen especially interesting.

  2. Stephen Bowie Says:

    Robert, I’m looking at your blog and seeing some interesting stuff for future reading, especially the 100 greatest sitcom episodes feature.

    You’re a classic example of someone whose work I should be more aware of, and spreading the word about!

  3. Toby Says:

    Thanks for those kind words.

    As weird as I find the whole issue of awards, I’m always looking for ways to hip others to blogs that I like.

    Your McGavin/Hammer piece is one of my favorites of your many bitchin posts. Thanks to your piece, I’ve developed a greater appreciation of the show and become a bigger fan of it, too.

    And as far as I can tell, that’s what the purpose of writing about TV and movies is really all about.


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